Frequently Asked Questions

While pump systems for the most part are maintenance-free, occasionally you might run into problems. Here is a list of the most common questions we get asked along with their solutions. If you don't see your question here or you're still stuck, feel free to give us a call. We'd be glad to help!

Question: I've noticed a loss in pressure and suddenly my pump quit working. Does that mean my pump is bad?

Answer: There are a number of factors that can cause this situation and they don't necessarily point to a bad pump.

First, check to make sure that there's power to the pump and that the circuit breaker which powers it is set to ON. This seems like a no-brainer but it actually comes up quite often, especially if there is any other equipment on the same circuit as the pump.

Next, check the air pressure in the tank using a tire pressure gauge. If water squirts out or if the pressure indicated is below the cut-in pressure for your pressure switch (usually 40psi) this could indicate that your pressure tank is waterlogged (see how your pressure tank works for an explanation of what that means). If the pressure is low, you can add air to the tank with an air compressor which should get your water working again. This is only a temporary fix however as the bladder inside the tank that separates the air from the water has ruptured. The tank will eventually need to be replaced.

If your pressure looks good, the problem might lie in the control box (see how your pump works). Most likely the capacitor inside the control box has gotten hot and expanded, causing it to leak electrolyte fluid and to stop functioning properly. Without a functioning capacitor, there's no way to get power to your pump's start winding and the pump will not start. To check the control box, first locate and switch off the breaker that powers your well pump. Next, remove the cover of the control box, check to see if the capacitor is leaking any electrolyte or if you can see or smell any burnt connections. If the capacitor is indeed leaking, it can be easily replaced. Be sure to take note of the numbers on the side of the capacitor, these indicate it's size and appropriate voltage. When you call looking for a capacitor, you'll need this information. If you can't read the numbers, usually knowing the size of the pump (written on a sticker on the outside of the control box) will be enough to find the correct capacitor.

BE SURE TO TURN THE POWER OFF BEFORE DOING THIS STEP! - If everything looks ok with the control box, you can also check the pressure switch. This switch turns on and off several times per day and will eventually wear out. If it does, this can cause your pump not to function. Check to make sure that the contacts can move freely, that there's no debris between the contacts (mice and insects like to crawl inside pressure switches and often find the experience electrifying).

If you've checked all the above and still can't find the problem, it may in fact be the pump. Be sure to gather all relevant information on your system - including pump size (HP), pump type (jet pump, submersible, etc) and also what you observed trying the above steps. The more information you can give your pump contractor, the quicker they can help you.

Question: The weather has been very dry lately but I notice that the ground around my well is always wet. Is my well leaking?

Answer: Most likely no. Many modern well installations have what is known as a pitless adaptor (see how your pump works) which diverts pipe and electrical wire underground directly from the wellhead to your pressure tank. Most often the leak is coming from the pipe connected to this adaptor. The reason for this is that with rainfall and compaction ground tends to settle causing a downward force on the pipe. Since the pipe is rigid, this downward force eventually becomes too great and the pipe snaps. We've found that using a length of flexible (PEX) tubing directly connected to the adaptor and then coupled to rigid PVC works best. There are however still installations which use rigid PVC directly to the adaptor which can cause this situation.

If you've got pipes and wire coming out the top of your well, then you most likely don't have a pitless adaptor. There may be a break or a loose coupling in the underground section of the pipe that's causing the wet spot to appear. If this is the case the pipe will simply need to be repaired.

In either case, give us a call. We'd be glad to help you!

Question: I've just had a well drilled, what size pump do I need?

Answer: This question isn't as simple as it seems. For it to be properly answered we need to know a few things first:

What is the diameter of the well casing? Typical well casings are 4", but they can be 6" or even 8" in diameter.

What is the static water level of the well? When water in the well isn't being pumped, it typically rises to a certain height. This height is known as the static water level. This level determines the upper limit of where the pump can be set.

What is the drawdown of the well? Typically when water is drawn from a well it will drop from the static level and eventually hold steady at a certain point. The point at which the water holds steady is the drawdown. This number is important because it tells the pump installer about where the pump should be set.

How much flow do you need? The typical answer to this question is "I have a big house with X number of bathrooms, I need a lot of flow". This might be true, but it's also important to consider how much water the well can actually produce. Equally as important is the fact that especially in long dry spells, the amount of water available in a well can decrease over time. You might be surprised to learn that a typical 4-bedroom 2-bathroom house typically only uses a maximum of 12 GPM. If you have livestock or landscape irrigation needs, your flow needs may be greater. Typically the best way to determine how much flow you need is to look at the water using appliance that has the highest minimum flow rate.

In addition to the flow rate, the pressure is also an important factor. If you look at specifications for most pumps, you'll see that they keep referring to head pressure or feet of head (sometimes also referred to as Lift). This is the amount of pressure (in PSI) required to push water upward. So for example if you needed to pump 12GPM of water out of a well and the pump will be set at 100' you need a pump that can pump 12GPM at 100 feet of head. Unfortunately if you were to only consider the depth of the well, you would be forgetting the pressure from your pressure tank as well as friction losses caused by water going through the pipe. This would make your actual flow rate quite a bit less than you would expect. Let's take the typical pressure of a pressure tank, 60psi for an example. 1PSI of pressure = 2.31 feet of head pressure. So at 60PSI, you would need 136.8 feet of head. Add this number to the 100' depth of the well and you'll need a pump that can produce 12GPM at 236.8 feet of head.

If all of this seems confusing, don't worry. Armed with the well information provided by your driller, we can help you come up with the right size pump for your needs.

Question: Do I really need a pressure tank? If so, what size do I need?

Answer: First off, almost all domestic water systems need a pressure tank of some sort.

The goal of the pressure tank is to keep the pump running long enough to cool the motor and to reduce wear on the pump. Consider a pump that produces 12GPM of water. If you were to turn on a faucet that used 3GPM of water without a pressure tank, the pump would come on when the tap was opened, run for less than 1 second and then turn off again. This ON-OFF-ON-OFF cycle would continue until you shut off the water. Not only would the wear on the pump increase dramatically in this situation but your electric bills would skyrocket. (Your pump uses over twice the energy to start as it does when it is running.)

Lets say your pump draws 2100W of power to start up. If the pump were to cycle like this for just 1 minute, it would use 60 * 2100 = 126000W (126 kW) of power in a 60 second period of time! (Yes... this is an incredibly simplified example and does not take into account the fact that the motor wouldn't have time to spin down completely). You can see how this could quickly add up to a very expensive monthly electric bill.

So now that you know why you need a pressure tank, what size should you use? The ideal size of a pressure tank is large enough so that the pump is allowed to run for at least 1 minute. If you have a pump that is capable of 12GPM then you would need a pressure tank that has a drawdown of at least 12 gallons in order for the pump to run at least 1 minute. (Drawdown refers to the maximum amount of water a pressure tank can hold.) Pressure tanks are typically sold according to the actual gallon capacity of the entire tank. This can be misleading because the water actually only fills a rubber bladder in the bottom of the tank, the rest of the tank is filled with compressed air. What can make this even more confusing is the fact that the drawdown changes with the amount of air in the tank. Fortunately most new water systems use a standard pressure of 40PSI. Assuming a pressure of 40PSI, you would want a tank rated at least 50 gallons in order to have a drawdown of 12 gallons. In the case of pressure tanks, if you have the space, bigger is definitely better. The larger the drawdown the longer the pump will run and the cooler the motor will be. Also the less frequently the pump will need to come on.

Question: I'm trying to sell my house and a potability test if my well water has come back positive for Coliform bacteria. What can I do?

Answer: The first step would be to disinfect your well. Instructions for this can be found on our well disinfection page. If after re-testing the well still fails, there might be a problem with the well seal or with the actual casing of the well itself. Because it can be difficult or even impossible to determine the actual source of contamination, the most common course of action is treatment of the water. Common treatments include Ultraviolet sterilization and also Chlorine injection.

Give us a call and we'll be glad to help you determine the right course of action in dealing with bacteria.

Question: I'm interested in buying a piece of property with a well on it. I've been told that I should have a flow test done. What is a flow test and why should I have it done?

Answer: A flow test is simply a test of the drawdown of the well using the existing pump equipment. The test is typically either 2 or 4 hours long. The length of time of the test is purely choice but sometimes a specific test length is required by your lending institution. One reason for a longer test might be to see the recovery behavior of the well over a long period of time.

As for the test itself, it is very simple. Once the technician arrives, they will connect a length of hose to your well either from a faucet at the wellhead or by disconnecting the pipe coming from the well. They will connect that hose to a flow meter which will measure the number of gallons passed through the pump. Then it's a simple matter of running the water for 2 (or 4) hours and recording the reading from the flow meter once every 15 minutes. They will also take depth measurements with a special "well sounder" which is simply a kind of tape measure with set of electrodes which complete a circuit and sound a buzzer when they reach water.

Once the test is complete you will receive a report which will show the average flow rate of the well as well as the static water level and the drawdown or pumping water level. With this information along with the driller's well log you can determine whether the well will be sufficient to meet your future needs. Because a new well can cost tens of thousands of dollars, a flow test can be just as important as a home inspection in determining whether a piece of property is right for you.